>Last week I admitted to not believing in the supernatural [link]. For those that are still on the fence regarding this issue, the concern seems to be that there are some pretty crazy miracles in the Bible.
So let me just say that I believe in miracles. That is not in question. Miracles happen every day and they are amazing and divine and God at work. I am a big fan of miracles.
Let’s look at one of the most famous miracles: We read the story of Jesus walking on the water and he climbs into the boat and calms the storm which which in turn calms the disciples nerves. He says “fear not”
(or ‘be not afraid‘) in the version of John 6 (he also walks on water in Mark 6 and Matthew 14).
Here is my question: What is the ‘take away’ from this story of Jesus walking on the water? That God is lord even of the natural world and so we need not ‘be afraid’. That’s beautiful.
So what is the application of Jesus walking on the water?
Well … it is not for us to walk on water.
even if I believe that Jesus walked on water- I have never walked on water. I’ve never seen anyone walk on water. We don’t encourage or demand that people walk on water.
The application is to trust in God (or believe in Jesus) and “be not afraid”.
Here is what I am proposing: I want to move our application up a step and make it our interpretation.
There are three major benefits to doing so:
- People fight to defend that Jesus actually walked on the water – then don’t do anything with it. It becomes a stand alone fact. There is no application. There is no ‘and therefor you should walk on water too’. It is a one-dimensional fight.
- Since the application is the same wether you listen to a preacher who insists that it literally happen or one who thinks that it was figurative… this lets us skip all the rancoring. Otherwise it is a lot of fighting over something that we are not going to do much with.
- Since walking on water is not an issue, we can focus on the point of the text. If we get all caught up in the physics and metaphysics behind the text then we lose the focus OF the text. The point of the text – what we are suppose to take away from it – is not that Jesus defied the laws of physics. That is not the point and so we we should not make it the point .
The end is not to do what Jesus did (walk on water) but to do what Jesus said “be not afraid”.
I can guess that the major objection to this reading will be. “If he didn’t really walk on water then how are we supposed to trust and not be afraid.” If he really did it , then we can really trust…
We need to be careful about something: The gospels are narrative works – they are works of literature. They are not newspaper reports, physics textbooks or modern biographies.
It is important to remember that the Gospel writers were telling us a story – and that the way they told that story matters. We should not demand of them the kind of detail and accuracy that a post-Indusrtiral Revolution or scientific texts would have. We need to be careful of reading them through an exacting Enlightenment lens – back through Greek dualism of the physical & spiritual and then impose them on a Jewish story.
In the end, what I am suggesting is that we move our application – (which is the same for fundamentalists, conservatives, liberals, charismatics, and evangelicals) – up one step and make it our interpretation.
The simple fact is that we no longer live is world where ‘supernatural’ is a sustainable or verifiable worldview. The phrase ‘supernatural’ A) is not Biblical and B) is not believable in the world of electricity. There is no sense in doggedly sticking to something that is both foreign to the text and incompatible in our age.
This would mean that what we DO with the story, we would call the POINT of the story – that the response it is designed to elicit IS our interpretation. It is not that big of a jump – and it changes our reading of the Bible to be consistent with the world as we know it to be while being authentic to the tradition that we have inherited (by trusting in God).